In the beginning it is just a car trip through Africa. Two English people – Bobby, a civil servant with a guilty appetite for African boys, and Linda, a supercilious “compound wife” – are driving back to their enclave after a stay in the capital.
But in between lies the landscape of an unnamed country whose squalor and ethnic bloodletting suggest Idi Amin’s Uganda. And the farther Naipaul’s protagonists travel into it, the more they find themselves crossing the line that separates privileged outsiders from horrified victims.
Alongside this Conradian tour de force are four incisive portraits of men seeking liberation far from home.